Sunday, June 27, 2010

Creamy Potato Tart with Fennel, Leeks and Fresh Garlic

I know it's not the "seasonal" thing to be posting potatoes.  In the oven no less.  But as I said here, summer has not quite settled in yet.  Besides, freshly dug potatoes, no matter the season, are not something I can easily ignore...

Especially when paired with fresh spring goodies like fennel, leeks, and still-moist, just dug, pristine white garlic.  All you need then is the cream.  Okay, half n half, but no less.  If you're watching fat, consider this a once-in-a-while treat. Which it is. Believe me.

The success of this dish is dependent on slicing the potatoes and aromatics very thinly, which I achieved by using a mandoline, an essential tool in any cook's kitchen.  The cream poured around and through the layers is taken up by the potatoes, rendering a tender, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth finished dish.  And although I wanted the taste of freshly chopped parsley here, feel free to experiment with other fresh herbs.

Christine's Creamy Potato Tart with Fennel, Leeks and Fresh Garlic
(print recipe)
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium fennel bulb
2 leeks, white and light green parts only
4 cloves garlic
3/4 to 1 cup cream or half n half
olive oil, sea salt, black pepper

Using a very sharp knife and your best cutting skills, or a mandoline for ease of the task, slice the peeled potatoes along their length, the cleaned fennel from the bottom of the bulb to where the fronds begin to form, the leeks from the bottom up to the light green parts, and the garlic cloves along their length. Keep everyone in their separate pile.
Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.
Heat a 10-inch cast iron or other heavy skillet to medium, add a few teaspoons olive oil, tilting the pan to coat, then add the fennel, leeks and garlic and sauté until they are softened but not browned, about 5 - 7 minutes, stirring often.  Remove to a plate, scraping out the pan.
Off heat, add another teaspoon or so of olive oil to the pan and tilt until the oil covers the surface.  Layer the potatoes in an overlapping circle, spiraling in toward the center, until the bottom of the pan is covered. Make two layers of potatoes this way.
Sprinkle the potatoes with a pinch or more of sea salt and a few grindings of black pepper, then spread the aromatic sauté over the top, covering the potatoes completely.
Make two more layers of potatoes on top of the sauté, sprinkle with a bit more sea salt, a few more grinding of black pepper, then pour the cream over and around the layers.
Bake, covered, for 1 hour or until the potatoes are very soft and the tart is bubbly.
Remove the cover and bake 10 minutes longer to brown the top.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, sprinkle with chopped parsley, slice and serve.

Another potato dish I've made is similar but not quite the same as this.  The addition of cream or half n half (really, use the cream) makes the potatoes and sautéed aromatics practically melt in the pan, melding their tastes together. The result is a thinner, smoother, more homogenized, if you will, creation.  It seems like it should be akin to scalloped potatoes, but it isn't. In my humble opinion.

Oops!  I forgot to say that the potatoes should be peeled, the leeks washed and outer layer removed, the garlic peeled, and the fennel washed, fronds and bottom stem removed and any blemishes removed with a vegetable peeler.

Bon appétit!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Chevre (soft goat cheese), Fresh Corn, Thyme and Potato Croutons

Highs in the low sixties, lows dipping into the low to mid-40s, with a brisk (read cold) north wind off the ocean, no less, led to the creation of this soup last night. (That and what happened to be in fridge, pantry and garden.)  We are, in mid-June - almost the Solstice, experiencing early spring weather which includes cold north winds that can make your bones rattle, and cloudy-sunny-cloudy days with an occasional rain shower thrown in for good measure.  (The wind:  Good for the ocean becauses it causes a phenomenon called upwelling, which brings cold water up from the depths, cooling off the surface and bringing fish food with it; not so good for humans who suffer from allergies, arthritis and/or are prone to anxiety. This wind even makes cats nervous.)

Fear not, those of you living blissfully in hotter climes, for the soup you see before you is quite versatile.  Serve it up hot when it's cold out and cold when it's hot out, the only caveat being that you do have to cook it over a stove, which may not appeal to those living in 90-plus temps.  If that's the case, save the recipe for cooler weather.
Cauliflower is the main ingredient, the potato is added for thickening and making the cute little croutons, the corn kernels add interest and a gentle crunch.
The leek, fresh spring onion,

and early China Rose garlic are from our local and best-beloved farmers market.

Then there's The chevre - ah, the chevre. Made right here, 12 or so miles from my kitchen, it is soft but not gooey. It breaks into snowy-white pieces that leave streaks in the hot soup as it melts, then combines thoroughly, adding a creaminess, tang, and deep note you must taste to appreciate.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Chevre, Fresh Corn, Thyme and Potato Croutons
(Print Recipe)
Christine's original take on Potato-Leek Soup and Vichyssoise
1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed and thinly sliced
1 spring onion, red or white, thinly sliced
6-7 cloves garlic, fresh if you can find it, minced
2 medium heads white cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 large yukon gold potato, peeled, cut into small cubes, about 2 cups
4 cups organic, low-sodium chicken stock, or your own home made version
Juice from 1/2 of a Meyer Lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
4-ounces fresh chevre (I used the herbed kind) broken into small pieces, room temperature
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme, left whole
White corn kernels cut from 1 ear of corn
Sea salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to taste
Olive oil and unsalted butter for the pan
Heat a large stockpot (soup pot) over medium heat. Add several teaspoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon butter and allow to melt.  Sauté the leek, onion and garlic until soft but not browned - you may have to adjust the heat to prevent scorching.
Add the cauliflower florets, chicken stock and 1 1/2 cups of the potato cubes, reserving the remaining cubes for the croutons (see below).  Stir the pot and bring to a low boil.
Add the lemon juice, toss in the thyme sprigs, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower and potatoes are quite tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, remove the thyme sprigs from the soup (the small leaves should have fallen from the stems by now) and, using an immersion blender*, blend the soup until it is creamy-smooth with just a few small chunks of potato lurking about. (Little chunks of potato give the soup character, in my humble opinion, but you can make it as smooth as a baby's bottom if that floats your boat.)
Stir in the fresh corn kernels now, do not heat; the soup will be hot enough to cook them within 2 minutes.
Stir in the chevre, let the pieces sit a minute or two then stir until all the cheese has melted.
Now you can taste and adjust the seasonings with sea salt and good freshly-ground black pepper.
To Serve:
Ladle hot soup into large, flat bowls, top with a few potato croutons and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.
To serve cold, allow the soup to cool at room temperature for 20 or so minutes then chill, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Stir before serving, without the potato croutons. Thin soup, if desired, with more chicken stock or water.

To make the potato croutons:
In a heavy skillet, heat about 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high.  Add the remaining cubes of potatoes and saute, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are golden brown on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Toss with a sprinkling of sea salt and remove from the heat.
While the potatoes are still hot in the pan, add a teaspoon or so of unsalted butter, a pinch of sweet paprika, and toss until the butter has melted and glazed the potatoes.  Serve as a garnish with the soup. Try not to eat too many beforehand ... 

The soup will be very, very hot when removed from the heat so take great care when using an immersion blender to not splatter yourself.  If you do not own an immersion blender (and how can that be?), you can blend the soup in a food processor in small batches. Take care not to overfill the processor bowl as the hot soup will expand when being processed and could overflow the bowl.

I appeal to you lovely cooks to seek out fresh, local and organic food products whenever possible.

When you're trying to read a blog post, do you find those pop-up links that block out text annoying?  I do. That's why you won't find them on this blog.  What you will find are links to the very items I use when preparing the recipe I've made and posted.  These items are for sale in my Amazon Store and may be accessed by clicking on the icon in the sidebar.

Bon Appétit!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pausing to Remember my Brother

Dear Readers,

I've been struggling with how to let you know the reason for my silence without seeming to be soliciting condolences, but eloquent words are not forthcoming so I'll just blurt it out:  My brother passed away on Tuesday, June 8th. For almost a month prior to that, my head just wasn't into creating new recipes and all the stuff that food bloggers do.  I'm not sure it is yet.  You can see a small tribute to him, if you would like, on my garden blog. The flowers are from my garden. My brother would have liked them.

I suppose I could write and write and write about how I'm feeling right now, and believe me I've got a lot of feelings. But the words won't come and it seems that the process must be silent. So I'll just take the time I need and get back here when I am able.  I know you will understand.

The farmers market is in full swing and produce abounds. I'm sure I'll be cooking soon.

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved